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K-State Today

September 24, 2021

Valent BioSciences, K-State sign collaborative agreement for soil health research initiative with Charles Rice

Submitted by Communications and Marketing

Charles Rice, university distinguished professor of soil microbiology. 

Valent BioSciences LLC and Kansas State University have announced a formal long-term agreement to advance critical research in the areas of soil health and carbon smart farming.

K-State's Charles Rice, university distinguished professor of soil microbiology and a world-renowned researcher in carbon cycling and climate change, will oversee this initiative. A portion of the project funding will provide support for a doctoral student and a postdoctoral researcher.

"This collaboration with Kansas State University marks the next important and exciting step in our commitment to soil health in agriculture," said Warren Shafer, vice president, Global R&D and Regulatory Affairs at Valent BioSciences. "The specific projects being conducting with the university will help us remain the thought leader in the fields of carbon and nitrogen cycling, as influenced by the soil microbiome. These projects are part of a larger initiative led by our parent company, Sumitomo Chemical Company, to mitigate climate change by reducing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere."

The overarching goal of the collaborative program with K-State is to study the complex interactions that control soil carbon stability and carbon and nitrogen dynamics. The joint research team will evaluate how MycoApply® brand soil inoculants — containing arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi — and soil conservation management practices together influence soil health. Healthy agricultural soils can reduce the impacts of climate change and offset greenhouse gases by stabilizing nitrogen and carbon.

Soil cores from the K-State studies will be evaluated and analyzed at the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center in St. Louis, Missouri, using the organization's state-of-the-art imaging technologies. Valent BioSciences maintains an ongoing collaboration with the Danforth Center to further define and shape the science of soil health. Scientists at the Danforth Center are using X-ray imaging equipment and computer learning to pioneer new techniques that shape the way we observe interactions between plant roots and beneficial soil microorganisms within the rhizosphere.

"This private/public partnership leverages global strengths for both organizations to address significant climate change research needs," said David V. Rosowsky, K-State vice president for research. "Dr. Rice's unmatched expertise in soil health will be invaluable to this initiative, as will the tremendous assets our corporate partners can provide. This is a model for how the nation's land-grant universities can address global issues."

Rice specializes in soil microbiology, carbon cycling and climate change, and has conducted extensive research in all of these areas. He is the first recipient of the Mary L. Vanier university professorship at K-State, which honors and supports innovative faculty members who are doing exceptional work. He was named 2020 Educator of the Year by the Mid America CropLife Association. Rice was part of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007. He is chair of the Board on Agriculture and Natural Resources at the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine.

Headquartered in Libertyville, Illinois, Valent BioSciences is a subsidiary of Tokyo-based Sumitomo Chemical Co. Ltd. and is the worldwide leader in the development, manufacturing and commercialization of biorational products with sales in 95 countries around the world.